16th August 2022
Hopefully this will be the start of a few journeys exploring parts of Scotland I have made a list of, with the intention of visiting in retirement. The prompt for this particular trip was the wedding of Iona Gillies to Martin Youngson in Cullen, more of which later.
Tuesday August 2nd
I left Glasgow on and visited in the Inverness area, staying over at Balloan Farm for a catch up with family there.
Wednesday August 3rd
Heading east on I started my journey by visiting Culloden Battlefield and visitor centre. I hadn't been there since I was a child. The centre is informative and everything is well laid out. I took the guided tour which is on the hour and would recommend it. After that I did some exploring of my own as the tour only takes you around part of which is a very large area. I saw the area where my paternal grandfather's clans of MacLean and MacLeod stood side by side on the Jacobite line.
A ten minute drive will take you to the Clava Cairns, which are a series of ancient burial chambers. This site incorporates four cairns and three stone circles dating back about four thousand years. The site is free to get into and well worth a look. The location is at the bottom of a steep hill and I met two ladies from Oregon who said they would have trouble walking back up to the battlefield so I gave them a lift back up. One of the great things about travelling is the people you meet, albeit momentarily. I had a quick look for the Neolithic chambered cairn at Cantraybruich which is nearby but failed to find it. The activities so far took me the whole morning so I headed east.
Passing out of Inverness-shire through Nairnshire into Moray my next stop was Brodie Castle just west of Forres. The original castle dates back to the 16th Century and has been revised architecturally over the years. The castle is well preserved both internally and externally and admission takes you onto a guided tour. It is a National Trust property. No photos are allowed of the interior so you will only see the outside in my photos, but there are many interesting artefacts within the castle which was inhabited by the Brodie family until recently. Worth a visit if you like your history and like to see old artefacts.
Like most of the areas I was to pass through the surroundings lands of the castle were large fields of golden corn in keeping with the season. I really scored with the weather and time of year. Hopefully the photos will reflect this.
I finished off the day with a visit to two sites in Forres, heading east. The first is Sueno's Stone. This seven metre high Pictish slab from the 9th or 10th Century is the highest carved standing stone in Scotland. The stone is enclosed within a glass cage which made photographing the detail difficult.
My last stop for the day was Nelson's Tower which is also in Forres. It was built in 1806 to commemorate Nelson's victories. It is only open from 1400-1600 so I arrived too late to climb it but the view from the hill it is atop still gives a good view over the Moray Firth.
Thursday August 4th
Having spent the night in Elgin I checked out the ruined medieval Cathedral first thing. Dating back to the 13th century it has been nicknamed the 'Lantern of the North.' It has echoes of St Andrew's Cathedral in that only sections remain. It was destroyed by the 'Wolf of Badenoch', a son of King Robert II. Still worth a visit.
Retracing my steps back to Forres I continued with my original plan and went up to Findhorn. It is a marvellous stretch of coastline. I took a walk along part of the beach and could have spent a lot of time there. I swung round by Lossiemouth and took in Duffus Castle on the way there. The castle was originally wooden dating back to 1151 and was rebuilt in stone after 1300. Although a ruin it is well worth an hours visit and the information on display gives the visitor a good impression of what it was like in its heyday.
From Lossiemouth I headed eastwards towards Fraserburgh hugging the coastline as much as possible. The scenery is awesome. Small coastal villages with harbours of various sizes and in some cases small beaches. I will let the photos do the talking but will list a few. Buckie seemed unremarkable but Findochty is in a lovely setting and I stopped on the viewpoint at the entrance to the town for a good shot of the harbour and whole town. Portknockie has a rugged coastline with a rocky shore and the famous Bow Fiddle Rock. I stopped briefly in Cullen but would revisit it the following day, so more of that later on. A place I had been keen to visit for a long time came into view: Portsoy. Home to J Donald's bakers who make my favourite oatcakes! A wee visit to the bakery was essential and I had a walk around the harbour. I passed directly through Banff and Macduff which looked larger and less interesting compared to the smaller coastal towns and villages although I did take a couple of photos. Gardenstown, a very prosperous looking village along the coast was the next stop. I parked up and took a recommended half hour walk along the shoreline to the next village of Crovie which hugs the high hills behind it. Once out of Gardenstown I would recommend going down the Crovie road where there is a car park from which you get a great shot of the village hugging the hills on the coast. Last stop was Pennan with its iconic post box and inn.
This was one of my best days of touring in many years and a memory which will remain down the years. Beautiful coastlines, attractive villages (in many cases surrounded by golden fields of corn) made the day a photographers dream and flagged up Scotland at its bonnie best.
I stayed the night in Fraserburgh known as The Broch in Scots. Home to the biggest shellfish port in Britain it certainly attracts the seagulls as I noticed when going out to my car the next morning! I went out for dinner to The Captain's Table which is an uber friendly seafood restaurant and highly recommended. The town streets were quiet on a Thursday night but you can hear the port bustling away.
Friday August 5th
I started the day with a walk along part of the fabulous beach in Fraserburgh. It is huge and was dazzling in the sunshine. Great views back towards the town as well as out to the north and east.
Making my way back east to Cullen I stopped at Sandend Beach and then went onto Findlater Castle from which you can view Sunnyside Beach. The walk to Findlater Castle was through fields of golden corn. The castle itself is a ruin and doesn't look that safe so I just viewed it from the top. It dates back to at least the 13th century. A short walk east lets you view Sunnyside beach which is stunning.
Arriving in Cullen I booked into my hotel and then took a walk along the railway line to Portknockie, returning down along the beach. A great wee walk on a nice day. I cannot recommend the Royal Oak Hotel in Cullen highly enough. Not cheap but a quality establishment with great customer service.
Saturday August 6th
Iona Gillies wedding to Martin Youngson at the Cullen Bay Hotel was a lovely event and a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and make a few new acquaintances. Congratulations and best wishes to the married couple. One of the wedding photos is an official one so I'd like to credit the official photographer Shelley Mackie which I have done on the photo blog. I did pinch a few other photos so thanks to those who gave me permission. Also, thanks to Iona and Martin for inviting me and to Donald and Lorna for suggesting places to visit in the area. On the day following the wedding I visited Aberdeen and enjoyed hospitality at the Aberdeen manse so thanks to the Somerset family.
Overall this was an excellent staycation and I would highly recommend it. The time of year was ideal given the golden nature of the countryside in this lovely part of Scotland. It only remains for me to encourage you to check out the photos. Hope you enjoy.
All the best